Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Birds of Dehra

Year 2011 was special for me, the birder.

2011 saw me metamorphose from an amateur reclusive solitary birder to an amateur birder actively participative in community birding. I joined Delhibird group way back in 2006 but of all these years, 2011 has been my most active year and I hope it paves the way for how I lead remainder of my lifetime - "Appreciative of Nature and In Love with Birds".

To mark a befitting end to 2011, I set off on a short 2 day birding trip to Dehradun with Nitu, Pankaj and Srinivas. We stayed at Bikram Grewal's newly opened Boutique Resort - Walterre. I have to still figure out what Walterre means, because I am sure it does something and that something is not that I can easily know because Google doesn't throw it in the first page of search results. But even if Bikram invented that word out of nowhere, I can tell you it'll come to be known for "A Heritage property nestled in deep foliage of Himalayan foothills, restored to it's original glory of Victorian age, replete with original lithographs and antique furniture and masterpieces collected from all over the world giving a modern day traveller an experience of a rich bygone era of finer tastes and deep values".

Now if that doesn't tell you anything, go visit it. It's worth every lazy moment you spend there.

Day 1 - Within the City of Dehradun. In and around Walterre.

Walterre is on the road to Shigalli (pronounced locally as Shin-Gaali) International School. The road to Shigalli is beautiful and good for birding on either sides. Then there's one cheat path from the back of the resort which leads directly to Tauns river. That's a very good trek too. We started day with a quick Pre-Breakfast survey of the resort lawns and beautiful tress lining it and were happy to spot morning hill beauties like Crimson Sunbirds in Eclipse Plumage, Green-tailed Sunbird, Fire-breasted Flowerpecker, flock of Red-Billed Lieothrix amongst others. Thereafter, we decided to halt and have Breakfast before starting all over again. Ideally English Breakfast laid out on the beautiful Hill side Porch would make normal people sit up and relax but not the birders. So we kept munching on omelettes and Salamis while watching a Blue Rock Thrush and Blue-throated Barbet and few Swallows and Crag martins flying overhead. Martins were later identified as Eurasian Craig Martins. Another brown-headed Barbet peeping through trees was debated long enough if it was Lineated. But finally, debate settled at Brown-headed. The most interesting beauty was an Asian Barred Owlet which sat dozing on the tree in front of us providing ample photo ops at eye-level.

After the breakfast, we were joined by Sanjay Sondhi and Anchal and now under their well honed Doon instincts, went to check out River area on the back. This stretch gave some good birds and in abundance. Highlights were Pale-billed and Thick-billed Flowerpecker, Orange-bellied Leafbird, flock of Red-billed Lieothrix, Brown Dipper, Plumbeous and White-capped Water Redstarts, Crested Kingfisher, Jungle Prinia, Chestnut-bellied and Blue Rock Thrush, Rufous-chinned LT, Golden-Spectacled Warbler, Puff-throated Babbler, a Crested Serpent Eagle and Eurasian Crag Martins flying overhead.

Any other Laughing Thrush were conspicuous by their absence. Content, we returned to the Resort and decided to stick around the lawns for regular hill birds.

While we were cooling our heels, Nitu decided to survey the thickets within the resort lawns. She quickly spotted small brown thing sitting on a stone into far off thickets. Before we could all reach and have a good look, the brown thing had moved away skulking underneath. After a coordinated effort by all four to not so much as even blink for next 10 mins, Nepal Wren Babbler finally gave good views (as good as a skulker can) to all of us. This was my first Wren Babbler though some had seen Scaly-bellied Wren Babbler in the past and could make out differences in scales on underbelly much better.

Content with having spotted Nepal Wren Babbler, birder party decided to move onto the road, checking out bushes on either sides and we saw most regular ones including Himalayan Treepies, Black-chinned babblers, Lesser White-throat, Red-billed Lieothrix, Crimson and Green-taile Sunbird, Pale-billed Flowerpecker and a gorgeous lifer for all of us Fire-tailed Sunbird.

Clouds End is literally the end of Mussorie and can be reached via the Hathipaon road. The road is good and didn't seem very popular with tourists, meaning it was all pristine and untouched all around. Eurasian Sparrowhawk sunning itself was the first one to greet us and thereafter there wasn't any looking back. Great Barbet, Blue-capped Redstart, Dark-sided Flycatcher were the few others seen initially until we came across one mixed hunting party after another and feasted our eyes and cameras on Chestnut-tailed Minlas, Rufous Sibias, White-browed Shrike Babblers, Eurasian and Black-headed Jays, Long-tailed Minivets, Blue-throated Flycathcer. Further along towards Clouds End, a small meadow like area gave us good views of Grey-winged Blackbird at very close quarters along with flocks of Russet Sparrows, a Rock Bunting. Further along the road, the trees are taller and warbler activity was on a rise as was the Sun. Kalij Peasant flushed out inadvertently was a delight as was a beautiful Orange-flanked Bush Robin and Rufous-bellied Woodpecker.

Day 2 - Dehradun - Clouds End

At Clouds End, we stopped at a private resort for Tea and Maggi and spotted an Eagle (unIDed) along with Himalayan Griffons. A warbler possibly a Brook's Leaf was spotted by Nitu. At 2 Kms is the Banog Wildlife Sanctuary which we didn't visit for want of time and headed back to catch evening Shatabdi to be back in office on Monday.

Overall a trip I'll remember for the sheer abundant number of those birds that I had on my earlier trips had just had glimpsed. On the other hand we dipped on lot of common ones but in a span of 2 days, the trip was more than it's worth. Just the right way to end 2011 and look forward to 2012 for adding more such leisurely trips to my kitty.

Corrigenda : Walterre means "Good Land". Courtesy Bikram Grewal.

Grey-headed Woodpecker

Brown-headed Barbet

Blue-throated Barbet

Indian Grey Hornbill

Pied Kingfisher

White-throated Kingfisher

Common Kingfisher

Crested Kingfisher

Greater Coucal

Slaty-headed Parakeet

Asian-barred Owlet [L]

Blue Rock Pigeon

White-breasted Waterhen

Black Kite

Crested Serpent Eagle

Little Cormorant

Orange-bellied Leafbird

Bay-backed Shrike

Grey Treepie

Large-billed Crow

House Crow

Long-tailed Minivet

White-throated Fantail

Yellow-bellied Fantail

Bar-winged Flycatcher Shrike

Black Drongo

Ashy Drongo

Chestnut-bellied Rock Thrush

Blue Rock Thrush

Verditer Flycatcher

Red-throated Flycatcher

White-capped Water Redstart

Plumbeous Water Redstart

Grey Bushchat

Bar-tailed Treecreeper [Could be Eurasian]

Great Tit

Black-lored Tit

Green-backed Tit

Eurasian Crag Martin

Red-rumped Swallow

Red-vented Bulbul

Red-whiskered Bulbul

Himalayan Bulbul

Black Bulbul

Grey-breasted Prinia

Plain Prinia

Ashy Prinia

Jungle Prinia

Oriental White-eye

Lesser Whitethroat

Common Tailorbird

Siberian Chiffchaff

Hume's Warbler

Greenish Warbler

Grey-hooded Warbler

Golden-Spectacled Warbler [L]

Rufous-chinned LT

Streaked LT

Rusty-cheeked Scimitar Babbler

Puff-throated Babbler

Jungle Babbler

Nepal Wren Babbler [L]

Black-chinned Babbler

Red-billed Lieothrix

Brown Dipper

Pale-billed Flowerpecker

Fire-breasted Flowerpecker

Crimson Sunbird

Green-tailed Sunbird

Fire-tailed Sunbird [L]

House Sparrow

Chestnut-shouldred Petronia

Grey Wagtail

Common Rosefinch

Long-tailed Shrike

Black Drongo

Kalij Pheasant


Himalayan Woodpecker

Speckled Piculet

Brown-fronted Woodpecker

Rufous-bellied Woodpecker [L]

Lesser Yellownape

Grey-capped Pygmy Woodpecker ??

Great Barbet

Rose-ringed Parakeet

Plum-headed Parakeet

Swift ??

Himalayan Griffon

Eurasian Sparrowhawk

Eagle ??

Cattle Egret

Eurasian Jay

Black-headed Jay

Rufous Sibia

White-tailed Nuthatch

Grey-winged Blackbird

Dark-sided Flycatcher [L]

Blue-throated Flycatcher [L]

Orange-flanked Bush Robin

Blue-capped Redstart

Common Myna

Russet Sparrow

Spot-winged Tit

Black-throated Tit

Striated LT

Brook's Leaf Warbler ??

Lemon-rumped Warbler

White-browed Shrike Babbler

Chestnut-tailed Minla

Whiskered Yuhina

Rock Bunting

Thick-billed Flowerpecker

Baya Weaver


Ashy-throated Warbler

Complete List of Birds seen


  1. Soma Indeed a very good report in the recent past! Happy Birding.

  2. Hi! I came across your blog while I was researching on a property. You seem to interested in birding, but writing about it and photography also, at the same time? Sounds promotions, but I cannot help it. We have a breakaway in Munnar in February, a travel writing workshop - details are at http://www.break-away.in/breakaways/22/Click-share-like

    do mail me at asawari@break-away.in incase you are interested or have friends who might be. Happy travelling, birding and blogging! Hope the list keeps going longer!

  3. Hi Soma--Google is not letting me sign up as a follow. Though I have tried many times, it keeps telling me to come back and try again later. So I am saying here that I am a 'Birds N Beyond' follower--even if Google refuses to admit it!

    Keep 'em coming, girl! -- Rose D

    1. Rose - Now this is a very silly tactic on part of Google. How dare it keep you away. Anyways, I always trust you to read whatever good or bad stuff I write :)

      Happy Birding and Reading ....